Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Meet Erika Mitzel

Get to know Treasury Prime’s Asian American Pacific Islander Community
Headshot of Patrick Lee
Patrick Wong
Social Media and Content Manager
,
May 24, 2022
Erika Mitzel, Treasury Prime people operations coordinator smiling

Erika Mitzel is one of the first people that employees get to meet when they start at Treasury Prime. As our people operations coordinator, Erika supports our candidates through their interview process while also supporting internal employee initiatives like onboarding and company perks and benefits. Erika joined Treasury Prime after working at several SaaS and tech companies, including Meta (then Facebook). Unearthing a passion for working with people, Erika’s path to where she is now both personally and professionally wasn’t always an easy one.

Tell us a bit about how you came to Treasury Prime.

I didn’t follow the traditional path to get into tech; unlike many of my peers, I didn’t go to college.

I had actually gone to school to be an aesthetician. And I remember during one of our classes, we were taught about companies that provide incredible customer service. That class really sat with me. It made me think about how much I value customer service and how I want to provide that high level of care, whether it’s to an actual customer, an employee, a colleague, or whoever it may be. That is what I strive for.

I think knowing that about myself really helped in getting me to where I am now. I wanted to get to know people, make them feel good. And carrying that attitude with me while I networked helped me get my foot in the door for a contract position at Facebook. It was my first foray into the tech world.

I was put on an exciting project that had me working nights, so I spent my work days mostly alone. Whenever I saw our night security guard, I was so excited to have a conversation with someone. I realized that what I really wanted was to work with and be around people. I eventually applied for a receptionist job at Facebook and that was really awesome because I got to interact with people, develop relationships, and foster a sense of community. I knew that’s what I needed to be doing, and it put me on this path of wanting to work in a people-facing role.

After leaving Facebook, I took on positions in recruiting and talent acquisition and eventually, I found Treasury Prime and what I do here is what I was looking for. I get to work with awesome people and provide them with a great experience and make sure that they enjoy where they work. I get a lot out of doing that!

Did not having a college degree make getting your foot in the door harder?

I sometimes felt that because I don’t have higher education in my background that I have to prove myself a bit more to show that I can do this, that I’m capable of this despite not having a college degree.

I’m not saying that a college degree is everything, but I think in American culture, a degree marks high achievement and people widely hold it in high regard. But I think that your experience can definitely outweigh what that piece of paper can mean.

I didn’t necessarily fit the mold that my parents had for me, and I did my own thing and I worked hard to bring something valuable to the table and to get to where I am now. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your parents and how you grew up?

My parents met in Taiwan. My dad was stationed there while he was in the military and met my mom there. Upon returning to the States, we lived on a military base in DC where my dad was also stationed.

The area surrounding the base was underserved and wasn’t ideal for raising a family, so when my mother became pregnant with my brother, my parents bought their first home in Springfield, VA. During this time my mother was working on acclimating to life in America: Learning the language (which she did in part by watching soap operas — I was named after one of her favorite characters, Erica Kane, played by Susan Lucci in “All My Children”), culture, and working. While I grew up around Mandarin being spoken in the house, it wasn’t really spoken to me. Despite that, though, my upbringing still felt very culturally Chinese.

Both my mother and father cooked a lot of Chinese dishes, we exchange red envelopes every Lunar New Year, and we were part of the Chinese community where we lived.

But having a White father and an Asian mother was sometimes difficult. As a biracial person, There were times where I felt like I didn’t really fit the “quota” for either community. I remember the other kids at our Chinese church wouldn’t let me play with them, while other kids would tease me for my Asian heritage. For the Asian community, was I not Chinese enough? And to my White peers, I was just seen as Asian to them. It was confusing and made me feel like I couldn’t be proud of both parts of my identity.

In high school there where times when I was asked why I was “trying to be White”, because of how I dressed and acted. For a while it made me move away from the Asian community because it felt like I didn’t fit the criteria. For a while it felt like, “well, if I’m not Asian, then what am I?”

That sounds really difficult. How did you learn to navigate this feeling of not belonging?

For a long time, I felt really torn between both sides of my identity. As I got older, though, I started to really embrace both parts of myself.

What helped was seeing Asian representation in the media. I remember seeing Margaret Cho’s “All-American Girl” sitcom and Eddie Huang’s “Fresh Off the Boat” TV show. I thought that was so cool to see and I felt like they were portraying experiences that I could identify with and that these experiences were now in the mainstream.

Those experiences are something that I’m really grateful for and what makes me, me.

I think also better understanding and appreciating my family, particularly my mom, was really important, too. Just learning about everything she had to overcome and figure out moving to a completely different country and building a successful career and raising a family while also sharing her culture with her children. That’s just rad and an incredible feat and it makes me even more grateful for how I grew up and for how it shaped me.

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